Digestive System Home > Intussusception

Intussusception is a condition in which one part of the bowel collapses, or tunnels, into an adjoining section. It most often occurs where the small bowel joins the large bowel, although it can occur anywhere in the intestine. Common symptoms include such things as abdominal pain, bowel movements mixed with blood and mucus, and a lump in the abdomen. Treatment may involve a barium enema or surgery.

What Is Intussusception?

Intussusception is a condition in which one section of the bowel tunnels into an adjoining section, like a collapsible telescope. Intussusception can occur in the colon, the small bowel, or between the small bowel and the colon. The result is a blocked small bowel or colon. Intussusception can be life threatening.

Who Does It Affect?

Intussusception is most common in young children in their first year of life. It affects boys more often than girls, with most cases occurring between 5 months and 3 years of age. The condition occurs spontaneously in approximately 1 in 2,000 healthy young infants and children per year. It can reoccur in about 1 in 10 children.

Where Does It Occur?

The most common place in the intestine for intussusception to occur is where the small bowel joins the large bowel. However, it can occur in most parts of the intestine.
When intussusception does occur, the two walls of the intestines press against each other. This causes inflammation, swelling, and eventually, decreased blood flow. If it is not detected early, internal bleeding, a hole in the intestines, and infection in the abdomen may occur, because the intestinal tissue has died from the decreased blood flow.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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